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Adiponectin associates with markers of cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis and induces production of proinflammatory and catabolic factors through mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways

Anna Koskinen1, Sami Juslin1, Riina Nieminen1, Teemu Moilanen12, Katriina Vuolteenaho1* and Eeva Moilanen1

Author Affiliations

1 The Immunopharmacology Research Group, University of Tampere School of Medicine and Tampere University Hospital, Medisiinarinkatu 3, Tampere, FI-33014, Finland

2 Coxa Hospital for Joint Replacement, Biokatu 6b, Tampere, FI-33520, Finland

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R184  doi:10.1186/ar3512

See related letter by Korkmaz,

Published: 11 November 2011



Adiponectin is an adipokine that regulates energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity, but recent studies have pointed also to a role in inflammation and arthritis. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the association and effects of adiponectin on inflammation and cartilage destruction in osteoarthritis (OA).


Cartilage and blood samples were collected from 35 male OA patients undergoing total knee replacement surgery. Preoperative radiographs were evaluated using Ahlbäck classification criteria for knee OA. Circulating concentrations of adiponectin and biomarkers of OA, that is, cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3), were measured. Cartilage samples obtained at the time of surgery were cultured ex vivo, and the levels of adiponectin, nitric oxide (NO), IL-6, MMP-1 and MMP-3 were determined in the culture media. In addition, the effects of adiponectin on the production of NO, IL-6, MMP-1 and MMP-3 were studied in cartilage and in primary chondrocyte cultures.


Plasma adiponectin levels and adiponectin released from OA cartilage were higher in patients with the radiologically most severe OA (Ahlbäck grades 4 and 5) than in patients with less severe disease (Ahlbäck grades 1 to 3). Plasma adiponectin concentrations correlated positively with biomarkers of OA, that is, COMP (r = 0.55, P = 0.001) and MMP-3 (r = 0.34, P = 0.046). Adiponectin was released by OA cartilage ex vivo, and it correlated positively with production of NO (r = 0.43, P = 0.012), IL-6 (r = 0.42, P = 0.018) and MMP-3 (r = 0.34, P = 0.051). Furthermore, adiponectin enhanced production of NO, IL-6, MMP-1 and MMP-3 in OA cartilage and in primary chondrocytes in vitro in a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-dependent manner.


The findings of this study show that adiponectin is associated with, and possibly mediates, cartilage destruction in OA.